The Wisdom and (Controversial) Philosophy of Milan Kundera

Milan Kundera is a Franco-czech writer who has been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature multiple times. His books were banned in most of the eastern block until 1989. His novels, particularly The Unbearable Lightness of Being, have been some of the most influential on my life. Having just re-read Unbearable Lightness again, I wanted to share a bit of his philosophies with you. I don’t always agree with them, but I am always challenged by them. The themes hop around a bit, but are worth our consideration. Here goes:


Not knowing what we want is quite natural. We can never know what to want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come.

 Isn’t it true an author can write only about himself? The characters in my novels are my own unrealized possibilities. That is why I am equally fond of them all and equally horrified by them all. The novel is not the author’s confession; it is an investigation of human life in the trap the world has become.

 Making love with a woman and sleeping with a woman are two separate passions, not merely different but opposite. Love does not make itself felt in desire for copulation (a desire that extends to an infinite number of women) but in the desire for shared sleep (a desire limited to one woman). Attaching love to sex is one of the most bizarre ideas the Creator ever had.

 The goals we pursue are always veiled. A girl who longs for marriage longs for something she knows nothing about. The boy who hankers after fame has no idea what fame is. The thing that gives our every move its meaning is always totally unknown to us.

 We all need someone to look at us, and we can be divided into four categories. The first category longs for the look of an infinite number of anonymous eyes, for the look of the public. Actors and singers fall into this category. The second category is made up of people who have a vital need to be looked at by many known eyes. They are the tireless hosts of cocktail parties and dinners. Then there is the third category, the category of people who need to be constantly before the eyes of the person they love. And finally there is the fourth category, the rarest, the category of people who live in the imaginary eyes of those who are not present. They are the dreamers.

 True human goodness, in all its purity and freedom, can come to the fore only when its recipient has no power. Mankind’s true moral test, its fundamental test, consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle.

 No person can give anyone else the gift of the idyll; only an animal can do so, because only animals were not expelled from paradise. The love between dog and man is idyllic. It knows no conflicts, no hair-raising scenes; it knows no development.

 What do you think? Do you agree with his conclusions on our wants, our needs, or relationship to others, including animals? Regardless, his conclusions are food for thought. They get me thinking, which is a beautiful gift from a writer.


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